Analogy Consultant

My ideal career. To be an Analogy Advisor (for the alliteration) would be a dream. To always live in a world of this : that :: other this : other that! A heaven. To enter into the contexts of organizations and people, see their patterns through my eyes (and try to see them through theirs) and then come up with alternative framing leaning heavily on metaphors. The process would be thus: hypothesize, simile experimentation, metaphor thesis. Hypotheses would exist just from what I know in advance. Essentially, the stereotypes in my head and the literal words of the client. To start, I ask many questions and observe many things, asking the basic question: is this thing you’re describing or doing, is it like this other thing? In what way is it similar or different? At first, most reactions will be bafflement.

“No, my factory floor is not like Congress.”

“No, my kitchen is not like London circa 1944.”

“No, get out of my office, my word choices are not Shakespearean (in the King Lear sense). Seriously, get out of my office.”

I’ll start softer. Basically, asking if the thing is like the thing that the person already thinks it is. Is your team like a team? Are your habits like habits? Is your career like a career? These questions will get people to realize that similes (and eventually metaphors) are the only way to think about their things that are not really like the things that they thought they were. Stay with me.

Next, I’ll develop many theories. These theories will be narrative construction projects of the similes as they become more precise. So, if the company is like a rodeo, the CEO is like a matador, and the software team is like a pizza oven (cooking at 930 degrees), the theory may start to shape up that we have a Spaghetti Western being filmed in Pamplona. The theory is a complete metaphor narrative, and many must be tried before metaphors can be solidified. Metaphors are much more sharp and should be handled with care. If a metaphor is revealed too early in the consulting engagement, the client may fire you and tell all their friends that you are an asshole. That is the opposite of what you want. Your theory will be controversial and a little strange, but the simile exposure process will help the client see the path you are taking to an eventual narrative theory of their world.

What’s the point? People see the world in stories. Sometimes in the course of life (ideally a few times a day) other stories that are unfamiliar ought to be tried on for size, to see if the stories you’re wearing as glasses are actually providing a distorted picture. So being an Analogy Advisor is a little like being an eye doctor. The key is not to blow that air puff machine into the client’s eyes until they are already seeing value (and well after they’ve paid their fifty percent up front). Getting different frames (both the metaphorical and literal kind) helps people perceive themselves in a different way when they look in the mirror and getting different lenses (again, both kinds) helps people see everything they look at differently, including mirror themselves. The very best, most exceptionally talented Analogy Advisor Craftspeople operate their one-stop-shops solo and can make frames, grind lenses, and provide the fitting all in-house (and even come to your office or make house calls).

This is what I want to be when I grow up. I hope writing it down will make that growing up process happen faster, and putting it into the internet will be like putting a paper punchcard into an old school computer and then getting the answers I want about how to get there. Fingers figuratively crossed.